Resilience Building in Graduating Students: The Role of Scalable Communities of Practice

This paper will draw on the authors’ experiences as course leads in pivoting the graduating Major Project in the Bachelor of Design degree at UNSW’s School of Art & Design from a blended face-to-face to a fully online modality.

This occurred during the major COVID lockdown of 2021 and followed a similar experience as lecturers in the Bachelor of Design (Honours) program in 2020. In both courses, outcomes are traditionally high stakes for emerging graduate designers, due to the individual nature of the projects and ambitions of graduating students. The underlying pedagogy for the Major Project course has evolved significantly in recent times (Goddard and Vickers, 2021). Less emphasis is placed on project outcomes, focussing instead on developing students’ ‘agility, soft skills and personal attributes for … shifting expectations’ (2021). The pedagogical frame for this approach draws on Grocott, McEntee, Coleman and Manix’s study of the challenges faced when fostering risk taking and transformation within the traditional project-based studio model (Grocott et al, 2019). Building upon this, we seek to integrate ideas embedded in John Wood’s Quadratic Consciousness (Wood, n.d) and his deployment of Leonard Euler’s model of design networks to explain the collective wisdom of communities. Responding to this notion, we reflect on the design and deployment of scalable, agile and supportive communities of practice that transcended face-to-face and online teaching modalities, with the view to building resilience within student cohorts. We will visually model the scalable communities that underpinned the teaching approach and discuss how this was embedded within the larger course structure and learning outcomes. Reflecting on the student outcomes that were achieved, an iterative path forward for the prototyped methods will be proposed.

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